Adding a Method to an Existing Object Instance


Question

I've read that it is possible to add a method to an existing object (i.e., not in the class definition) in Python.

I understand that it's not always good to do so. But how might one do this?

1
576
12/22/2017 6:55:07 PM

Accepted Answer

In Python, there is a difference between functions and bound methods.

>>> def foo():
...     print "foo"
...
>>> class A:
...     def bar( self ):
...         print "bar"
...
>>> a = A()
>>> foo
<function foo at 0x00A98D70>
>>> a.bar
<bound method A.bar of <__main__.A instance at 0x00A9BC88>>
>>>

Bound methods have been "bound" (how descriptive) to an instance, and that instance will be passed as the first argument whenever the method is called.

Callables that are attributes of a class (as opposed to an instance) are still unbound, though, so you can modify the class definition whenever you want:

>>> def fooFighters( self ):
...     print "fooFighters"
...
>>> A.fooFighters = fooFighters
>>> a2 = A()
>>> a2.fooFighters
<bound method A.fooFighters of <__main__.A instance at 0x00A9BEB8>>
>>> a2.fooFighters()
fooFighters

Previously defined instances are updated as well (as long as they haven't overridden the attribute themselves):

>>> a.fooFighters()
fooFighters

The problem comes when you want to attach a method to a single instance:

>>> def barFighters( self ):
...     print "barFighters"
...
>>> a.barFighters = barFighters
>>> a.barFighters()
Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "<stdin>", line 1, in <module>
TypeError: barFighters() takes exactly 1 argument (0 given)

The function is not automatically bound when it's attached directly to an instance:

>>> a.barFighters
<function barFighters at 0x00A98EF0>

To bind it, we can use the MethodType function in the types module:

>>> import types
>>> a.barFighters = types.MethodType( barFighters, a )
>>> a.barFighters
<bound method ?.barFighters of <__main__.A instance at 0x00A9BC88>>
>>> a.barFighters()
barFighters

This time other instances of the class have not been affected:

>>> a2.barFighters()
Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "<stdin>", line 1, in <module>
AttributeError: A instance has no attribute 'barFighters'

More information can be found by reading about descriptors and metaclass programming.

855
9/24/2011 11:47:39 PM

Module new is deprecated since python 2.6 and removed in 3.0, use types

see http://docs.python.org/library/new.html

In the example below I've deliberately removed return value from patch_me() function. I think that giving return value may make one believe that patch returns a new object, which is not true - it modifies the incoming one. Probably this can facilitate a more disciplined use of monkeypatching.

import types

class A(object):#but seems to work for old style objects too
    pass

def patch_me(target):
    def method(target,x):
        print "x=",x
        print "called from", target
    target.method = types.MethodType(method,target)
    #add more if needed

a = A()
print a
#out: <__main__.A object at 0x2b73ac88bfd0>  
patch_me(a)    #patch instance
a.method(5)
#out: x= 5
#out: called from <__main__.A object at 0x2b73ac88bfd0>
patch_me(A)
A.method(6)        #can patch class too
#out: x= 6
#out: called from <class '__main__.A'>

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